Eagles Open Big Sky Play at Sacramento State
Eastern looks to put an end to three-game skid against Big Sky Conference foe Sacramento State on Thursday
Date - Opponent - Time/Pacific
Dec. 31 - at Sacramento State - 1:05 p.m.
Eagle Webcasts . . .
All of Eastern Washington's women's basketball games at home, as well as all Big Sky Conference games, will be available to view, free of charge, at www.bigskytv.org.
By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will be looking to break its three-game losing streak and get off on the right foot in Big Sky Conference play this Thursday (Dec. 31) when it takes on the Sacramento State Hornets at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time in Sacramento, Calif.
Eastern is 1-5 on the road this season and will be looking to improve that record against Sacramento State. The Hornets are 3-8 heading into the match-up and the game will mark the first Big Sky Conference game of the season for both squads.
It could be a high scoring affair, as both teams like to shoot from behind the arc -- the Hornets are 11th in the nation with 8.3 made three-pointers per game while the Eagles average 6.1 per game. Both teams average at least ten steals a game and are a combined 1-12 when trailing at halftime. Eastern has yet to lose a game when they led at the half.
The Hornets are led by senior forward Charday Hunt, who averages a team-high 16.9 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds. Erika Edwards leads the squad in three-point percentage at 42.4 percent and rebounds with 6.3 per game. Emily Christensen is second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.4 points per game. Christensen scored 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the Hornet's last game against the Academy of Art.
The teams have played many common opponents thus far this season, including Memphis, Washington, Portland, Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis. Both teams dropped their games to Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis, but had different outcomes against the others. Sacramento State defeated Washington 74-71 on Nov. 29, while the Eagles were ousted by the Huskies on Nov. 27 64-46. The Eagles hold victories over Memphis and Portland while the Hornets were defeated by both this season.
After Thursday's game, the Eagles will play their first two games of 2010 at Reese Court against Montana on Jan. 8 and Montana State on Jan. 9. Both games are set to tip-off at 7:05 p.m.
The Eagles are coming off a tough three-game stretch in which they lost to Cal Poly 66-59 on Dec. 16 at Reese Court, and also dropped games on the road at UC Irvine 87-73 (Dec. 19) and Cal State Fullerton 58-55 (Dec. 21).
The offense has continued to be a recurring problem for the Eagles, who shot just 29.9 percent from the field in the home loss to Cal Poly and 38.5 percent in the loss at Cal State Fullerton, including just 1-for-12 from the three-point line. Eastern shot 42.9 percent to out-shoot UC Irvine, but the Anteaters made up the difference by going to the free-throw line 55 times in the game, cashing in on 45 of them. For comparison, the Eagles went 17-for-25 from the charity stripe.
Second-Year Players Making Strides: Second-year players have been a bright spot early on for the Eagles, with true sophomore guards Brianne Ryan and Chene Cooper taking their game to another level.
"Cooper has really matured this season in terms of taking care of the ball and decision-making," said Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller. "She still does a great job of pushing the tempo for us and creating things as she did last season, but this year she is doing that a little more under control and making good choices."
Cooper is averaging 6.8 points a game off the bench, including back-to-back games in which she scored a team high 17 in a win against Memphis and 14 against Gonzaga. She also averages 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
"Ryan has really rounded out nicely this season -- she is a good rebounder and is turning into our defensive stopper," said Schuller. "We know we can put her on the opponent's perimeter shooter, and with her speed, length and hard play, that she'll do a great job."
Ryan has started all 12 games this season and is averaging 8.1 points per game, along with 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 1.8 steals per game.
Although not a second-year player, Schuller has been impressed with the progression of senior starting point guard Jessica Huntington. She is averaging 6.5 points a game along with a team-high 4.2 assists, and ranks first in the Big Sky with a 1.92 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"Huntington has really become a scorer for us," said Schuller. "She'll get to the rim and shoot the three, and is just playing with a lot of confidence."
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/w-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://bigskyconf.com/sport.asp?path=wbball&tab=womens
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/w-baskbl/ncaa-w-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://scores.espn.go.com/ncw/scoreboard
Coach Schuller’s Website -- http://www.coachschuller.com/
Coach Schuller’s Twitter -- http://twitter.com/EWUCoachSchu
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM
Recent EWU Women's Basketball Headlines . . .
December 21, 2009 – Eagles Lose Close Contest with Titans 58-55
December 19, 2009 – Anteaters Drop Eagles In Irvine
December 16, 2009 – Eagles Close Deficit But Fall to Mustangs
December 15, 2009 – Eagles Face Cal Poly at Reese Court Before Road Trip
December 12, 2009 - Eagles Bury Orediggers 87-60
December 7, 2009 - Eastern Takes on Montana Tech After Short Break for Finals
December 4, 2009 - Eagles Fly Through Matadors 68-50
December 1, 2009 - Eagles Fall to Gonzaga 87-61
November 29, 2009 - Cooper Leads Eagles to 58-54 Win Over Memphis
EWU Basketball Highlights . . .
- The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals three of the past eight years.
- For the last eight years, Eastern has ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. In 2003-04, Eastern had the top grade point average in the country, 3.63. In 2008-09 EWU ranked ninth (3.42).
- Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team honors - Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
- The past eight seasons, 67 players have earned Big Sky
All-Academic honors, the most in the league.
Eagle Returning Letter Winners . . .
Julie Piper attained the most impressive recognition for the Eagles during her sophomore season in 2008-09, as she earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades. She also ranked highly in the league's statistical rankings, placing fifth in free throw shooting (78.3 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (6.8) and 18th in points per game (11.1). Her shooting from the charity stripe also placed her 130th among NCAA Division I players and was the eighth-best in Eastern history. She will enter her junior campaign second in EWU history for career free throw shooting percentage (76.0). She had the best scoring output by an Eagle in the 2008-09 season, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in Eastern's battle with Big Sky runner-up Portland State on Jan. 24. Piper also set the team pace in rebounds in 18 different contests.
Kyla Evans continued her attack on the Eastern record books as a sophomore. She made 60 three-point baskets, the fifth-highest single-season total ever recorded by an Eagle, and moved her career sum to 112, good for fifth place. In fact, the sophomore's current career three-point shooting percentage of 38.4 is on pace to set the school record. Evans placed 82nd nationally in three-point shooting percentage (36.1) and 100th in three-point baskets per game (2.07). She was third and eighth in those respective categories in the Big Sky ranks. She made 6-of-10 in a 90-75 win over Montana State on Jan. 29 to help the Eagles to within one of the school record of three-point makes in a game (EWU shot 13-of-27 from beyond the arc in that contest). Evans showed her prowess in the classroom, as well, earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 8 first team accolades. She was also the EWU Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December.
Nicole Scott had an outstanding junior season, as well, and the best display of her skills came on Dec. 13 against Pacific that helped her earn Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors. In that contest, Scott nailed all six of her shots, including three treys, in the best shooting performance by an Eagle since Felice Moore also went 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. Additionally, Scott crafted an impressive streak of consecutive free throws made with 29 straight from Nov. 25-Feb. 7, just two shy of being one of the 22 longest such streaks in Division I history. She led the league in free throw shooting in Big Sky games by converting on 86.5 percent of her attempts (32-of-37). She was also an intimidating force inside, placing sixth in the conference in blocks per game (0.97).
Jessica Huntington was one of the steadiest point guards in the country in her junior season, as her assist-turnover ratio of 1.85 (94-to-50) was the tops in the Big Sky and 23rd best among Division I players. She also averaged 3.24 assists per game, placing seventh in that category among league players. She converted 40.7 of her three-point attempts (22-of-54), the sixth-best average in Eastern Washington history.
Tatjana Sparavalo also had some impressive performances during her sophomore season. She scored 15 in a challenging road game versus UNLV and shot at a high level against Portland on Dec. 15, making 5-of-9 attempts from the floor. In addition, Sparavalo had six of Eastern's points during a game-changing 18-3 run in a victory over Weber State on Jan. 10.
Brianne Ryan started 19 games as a freshman and saw her shooting percentages rise once league play commenced, markedly in the three-point category. She shot 27.3 percent from the arc in non-conference games (9-of-33) and 45.2 percent in league contests (14-of-31).
Chene Cooper also played well as a freshman in 2008-09. Her aggressive nature showed in her steals per game average of 1.62, seventh-best in the Big Sky. She also placed 12th in assists per contest with 2.41. In addition, she improved her shot-selection and shot-conversion skills throughout the season, making just 28.3 percent of her attempts through the first 22 games before converting on 41.3 percent over the last seven games.
Breauna Russell played in 16 games as an Eastern freshman in 2008-09, finishing the year with 16 points and 11 steals.
About Head Coach Wendy Schuller . . .
Under head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has reached heights unseen in Cheney in decades, both on and off the basketball court.
Over the past eight campaigns, the team has been ranked amongst the top 10 squads on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll, something only achieved by one other team (Indiana State). The Eagle squad of 2003-04 placed first nationally with a 3.63 grade point average.
Schuller led Eastern to back-to-back .500-or-better regular-season Big Sky Conference records for the first time in school history (2004-05 and 2005-06) as well as tournament appearances in five of her eight seasons at EWU. To put that achievement into perspective, Eastern Washington played in just five BSC Tournaments in its first 13 years of Big Sky play.
Since the Big Sky began sponsoring women's sports in 1988-89, the Eagles have compiled two overall winning seasons and five trips to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals. Both of those winning marks came during Schuller's time on the Eastern campus, as did three of the five conference semifinal appearances.
Schuller and the Eagles have made Reese Court a challenging place for visitors to play, as Eastern has compiled a commanding 38-29 mark (.567 winning percentage) in its last 67 games played there. Eastern went 8-6 at home last year en route to recording 2.5 times as many overall wins as was attained the previous year, 10.
In 2005-06, Eastern Washington qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championship for the seventh consecutive season and was the fourth seed at the event for the second straight season, its highest seeding since the 1994-95 campaign.
She led Eastern to a winning campaign in 2004-05 (16-12) to start just the team's second set of consecutive winning seasons for the Eagles since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns.
The 2003-04 season saw Eastern Washington qualify for the BSC Tournament semifinal round for the third straight season.
In 2002-03, Eastern had its first winning campaign in 16 years at 17-12 and came the closest to making the Big Sky championship game in school history, falling in the semifinal round to top seed and host Weber State by just nine points, 64-55.
In Schuller's first season of 2001-02, Eastern Washington claimed a tournament quarterfinal contest as the fifth seed for the first of two straight seasons. The Eagles topped No. 4 Northern Arizona 70-57 to mark its furthest advancement in the tournament in seven years.
Prior to arriving at Eastern, Schuller began her coaching career at Northwestern State University. In 1993, she started coaching as a graduate assistant for the Lady Demons while earning a master's degree in sports administration.
Following graduation, she became a full-time assistant, and her duties included acting as defensive coordinator and primary recruiter and working with opponent preparation and general operations.
In 1997, she was promoted to associate head coach.
Her last six years at the Natchitoches, La., school saw her also serve as the senior woman administrator.
In total, Schuller coached for nine seasons at NSU under head coach James Smith, the most successful coach in Southland Conference history.
In that time span, the team won 185 games and two conference titles and earned a pair of wins over top-25 teams as one of the top-30 winningest NCAA Division I programs of the 1990s.
Schuller earned her bachelor's degree in business in 1992 from Fresno Pacific University after playing for the Sunbirds as a shooting guard.
Her senior season, she helped lead FPU to a 25-6 record, a No. 14 national ranking in the NAIA ranks and advancement to the NAIA Tournament's Round of 16. She was also selected as an NAIA Academic All-American that season.
A native of Redlands, Calif., Schuller and her husband, Mark, have an 9-year-old son, Rory (born Oct. 16, 2000), and a 6-year-old daughter, Megan (born July 15, 2003). The family resides in Cheney.